Waterloo Park is now home to the city’s first playground with an accessible surface.

A grand opening for the Eby Farm Playground was held Tuesday afternoon.

Its rubberized surface, as opposed to sand or wood chips, allows kids using a wheelchair or mobility device to access the playground elements.

The play structure is also equipped with a ramp and a new accessible spinner.

“It quite literally is paving the way for the next generation to be as inclusive as possible,” said Waterloo Regional Coun. Chantal Huinink, who uses a wheelchair. “And when children learn to play together and build relationships with one another, that's the way of the future.”

The pandemic delayed the project, with design beginning in January 2022 and construction wrapping up just last month.

Huinink said the city seeing it through to fruition is a positive sign of community progress.

“I think this is just one more example of the City of Waterloo setting the tone to move forward,” she said.

Huinink was among several municipal and provincial officials celebrating the park on Tuesday.

“It just sends a signal to our community that accessibility matters, no matter what age,” Waterloo Mayor Dorothy McCabe said.

The project was made possible with a $380,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The city contributed $240,000, and donations made up the rest of the $640,000 project cost.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Jessica Larmer, who was at the playground with her daughter on Tuesday. “It's nice to have more accessible playgrounds in the area.”

As for the accessible surface, Larmer said it’s “nice and bouncy,” and the new playground smell she noticed at first has since worn off.

“It had a bit of a smell when we first started coming, but the smell has dissipated, so it's good,” she said.

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The new playground is part of a broader multi-million-dollar rework for Waterloo Park that McCabe said is crucial for improving quality of life.

“You can’t put a price on that, right? Part of living in Waterloo is not just live, work and play, it’s also you have to enjoy yourself and have fun,” she said.

In addition to the new surface, a multi-level structure has been built, along with a playhouse, shade structures and benches.

There are more plans in the works to spend another $500,000 to improve the neighbouring Waterloo Park playground next.